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Living On a Student Budget

Updated: Feb 15

Written by: Stephanie Moyana

With the fall semester right around the corner, it’s time to start thinking about Personal Finance. For many students, finance may be the last thing on their minds, given the eventful year of changes we are facing. Here are a few tips to simplify finances for the unconventional year ahead:

Explore virtual employment opportunities

The COVID-19 pandemic slowed down student jobs, but as things pick up pace again, it’s a good time to consider looking for a from-home job to fit alongside classes. Firstly, the Federal Student Work Experience Program gives students the opportunity to apply to a government inventory for jobs. These valuable experiences are either English, French, or bilingual, and even offer accommodations for disabilities and advocate for diversity and the inclusion of Indigenous students. More locally, Telfer students can use Career Launch to find employment opportunities, as well as workshops and seminars to network and to build concrete skills.

Monitor online flyers

An excellent way to get the best value when you’re buying groceries is to check online before you shop. Flipp and RedFlagDeals are two websites that allow you to browse the entire flyers of local grocery stores. This way, if you’re looking for fruit for example, you can compare prices and find the best value and variety of fruit in your area. Additionally, making a list of essentials before you go shopping can reduce impulse purchases.

Similarly, if you drive a car, you can use GasBuddy to find the cheapest gas stations in your area. This app is totally free and can really save you money over time. However, whenever possible, biking, walking, and using public transportation with your U-Pass are the best options expense-wise.

Buy secondhand

A popular strategy for many students trying to stick to a budget is to buy used course materials. Of course, this could look different this year due to social distancing protocols, but there are many great online options. For example, the Campus Bookstore has a large collection of used textbooks available for home shipping, as well as general bookstores like Amazon and Indigo. If you are studying in Ottawa, it may be worth looking into even arranging a purchase over Facebook; some students are organizing contact-free sales. All in all, to save a few extra dollars, buying used is definitely worth the hassle. Once you’re done with your books, you can also resell them through the same platforms. Adding onto this, it’s not always possible to find the exact textbook you’re looking for in a used marketplace, so local bookstores are another good place to look. Often, they have the same standard textbooks, minus any marked-up prices; as well, many are reopening now after months of inactivity and could really benefit from the extra business.

Invest in creating a productive work-from-home environment

Listening to calm music can be a helpful way to increase concentration while taking virtual classes from home. While Youtube Music can be a good, free option, for the student willing to make room to invest in a platform with more capacity for customization, I would recommend Apple Music or Spotify. Both of these apps also allow for sharing and exchanging playlists with friends. Spotify offers both a free version and a paid ad-free version, with a student discount available. Apple Music offers a 48 month student subscription. While you’re there, be sure to check out Words with WMN, a podcast centering around creating real conversations with professionals and guests about gender equity.

Incorporate fun into your budget

Lastly, while saving on groceries and reducing expenses are important, it’s always a good idea to treat yourself, in moderation, to small rewards to keep yourself motivated. Some students opt to pay for a Netflix subscription, while others might buy themselves a fancy coffee order once a month.


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